Youth activists challenge world leaders as they hold #UpForSchool rally and launch petition

Youth leaders from more than 100 countries are demanding action from world leaders today as they hold the #UpForSchool rally and launch a major petition.

With the 69th United Nations General Assembly geting underway, the activists will gather in New York to demand urgent measures on behalf of millions of children currently excluded from school because they are child labourers, married too young, discriminated against, exploited or living in war-torn regions where their schools are under attack.

Despite promises made by world leaders in 2000 to have every child in school by the end of 2015, 58 million are still being denied their right to education.

To drive action over the next 500 days, young leaders have created a global call to action – the #UpForSchool Petition – to demonstrate unprecedented public support for education. It will be delivered to world leaders at the UN General Assembly in September 2015 and is backed by a coalition of more than 100 businesses, faith leaders, NGOs, teachers and influential individuals.

You can sign the #UpForSchool petition here. 

The peittion has already gone to 100 schools in Pakistan and has been signed by more than 10,000 children.

Baela Raza Jamil, of Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) ( “Centre of Education and Consciousness” ) in Pakistan, will be at the rally. He said: “In one week more than 10,000 children have signed the #UpForSchool petition and it is now being taken door-to-door to more than 84,000 homes and 200 schools connecting every village, town and city.

“Young people in Pakistan are leading this demand. They are demanding that every child must be able to go to school, without danger of discrimination.”

Youth leaders will be joined at the New York rally by United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, rights advocate Graça Machel, Angry Birds marketing chief Peter Vesterbacka, Ricken Patel of the campaigns website Avaaz, Hadiza Bela Usman from the #BringBackOurGirls movement, UN Envoy on Youth Ahmad Alhendawi and CNN’s Isha Sesay.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is also backing the petition. He said: “I am #UpForSchool. Over the past year from Nigeria to Pakistan we have seen education come under attack. Moreover so many millions are not getting the schooling they need for the best possible start in life. I’m very encouraged that young people across the world have launched the #UpForSchool campaign. You can count on my support.”

School children in Mardan, Pakistan, show their signed petitions

Rainn Wilson, actor, comedian and star of the American TV show The Office, is also urging people to sign the petition.

He said: “I, like you, am #UpForSchool. Let’s get this global petition going. Children all over the world have a right to get education. So let’s start this petition. Let’s start this movement. This is how it begins, #UpForSchool”

The youth rally is co-hosted by A World at School and the Office of Special Envoy for Global Education in collaboration with the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Youth. It will be held at New York University’s Kimmell Center and will be followed by a public rally at 6pm in Washington Square Park.

Mr Brown will address the youth rally and say: “Progress on getting children into school has stalled, aid to education is in rapid decline and 58 million children are being denied their right to an education. In the face of this crisis young people are connecting together, mobilising and demanding action from their leaders.”

Bring Back Our Girls leader Ms Usman said: “Youth from around the world, whether it is Pakistan, Nigeria or Gaza, are coming together and sending the world a message. Together we can create a movement no government, politicians or leader can ignore. It is time to rise up for education”.

Mr Vesterbacka said: “Things have changed. Young people are able to connect with each other like never before. They are mobilising and saying that an attack on one school is an attack on all schools. There is a powerful movement emerging and it is being supported by creative and innovate businesses and individuals”.

CNN presenter Isha Sesay said: “We have seen powerful movements emerge after attacks on schools and school children in specific countries. We are now seeing young people link these together and seeing this as an attack on all children.”

Chernor Bah, co-founder of A World at School and youth activist, is leading the young people in their campaign. He said: “Around the world, from Pakistan to Nigeria, Syria to Gaza, we’re starting to connect. To rise up and demand action. Education is our right, no matter who we are or where we’re born. And no child in the world should be denied it.”

Campaigner and A World at School co-founder Sarah Brown said: “Education saves lives. Those with at least a basic education, earn more, they and their children are healthier and have the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the stability of their communities and growth of their economies. We have an urgent deadline between now and the end of 2015 to bring about real change. Leaders must keep their promise and respond urgently with the financial investments and political commitments needed to get every child in to school.”

Ahmad Alhendawi, United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth said: “Young leaders from more than 85 countries are launching a global call to action – the #UpForSchool petition. We must do everything we can to support these young people as they mobilise together around the world. Join us. Stand #UpForSchool.”

The event will also honour inspirational youth leaders on the front lines supporting education in their communities by announcing the recipients of the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education’s Youth Courage Awards.

Get inspired – some great petitions in history.